HIV infection induces a robust T cell response that is sustained by high viremia, but falls following the onset of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Relatively little has been reported on the subsequent stability of the HIV-specific T cell response in individuals on durable therapy. Such data are critical for powering clinical trials testing T cell-based immunotherapies. In a cross-sectional study, HIV-specific T cell responses were detectable by ex vivo interferon (IFN)-γ ELISpot (average ∼1,100 spot-forming units [SFUs]/106 peripheral blood mononuclear cells) in persons living with HIV (PLWH; n = 34), despite median durable ART suppression of 5.0 years. No substantial association was detected between the summed HIV-specific T cell response and the size of the replication-competent HIV reservoir. T cell responses were next measured in participants sampled weekly, monthly, or yearly. HIV-specific T cell responses were highly stable over the time periods examined; within-individual variation ranged from 16% coefficient of variation (CV) for weekly to 27% CV for yearly sampling. These data were used to generate power calculations for future immunotherapy studies. The stability of the HIV-specific T cell response in suppressed PLWH will enable powered studies of small sizes (e.g., n = 6-12), facilitating rapid and iterative testing for T cell-based immunotherapies against HIV.
Keywords: CD8; HIV; T cell; immunotherapy.